(Family Division; Baron J; 7 June 2007)
The local authority believed that the child's death was the result of the mother having shaken the child. In the course of care proceedings the court made an order (i) setting the dates for a two-day fact-finding hearing and (ii) requiring the police to disclose all information arising from their investigations by a specific date over 10 weeks before the hearing. The order was made in good time but was not issued until over one month after the deadline for disclosure. In the meantime the police had been informed of the contents of the order, but had not complied with it. The mother did not receive the relevant information until the morning on which the fact-finding hearing was due to begin, and the court date had to be vacated.
The administrative authorities in court should ensure that court orders were issued in good time. In response to the failure to issue or comply with orders, local authorities ought to seek clear directions from the court at an early stage.